Alma 16:1-3, 9-11, LeGrand Baker, Cost of disobedience
1 And it came to pass in the eleventh year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, on the fifth day of the second month, there having been much peace in the land of Zarahemla, there having been no wars nor contentions for a certain number of years, even until the fifth day of the second month in the eleventh year, there was a cry of war heard throughout the land.
2 For behold, the armies of the Lamanites had come in upon the wilderness side, into the borders of the land, even into the city of Ammonihah, and began to slay the people and destroy the city.
3 And now it came to pass, before the Nephites could raise a sufficient army to drive them out of the land, they had destroyed the people who were in the city of Ammonihah, and also some around the borders of Noah, and taken others captive into the wilderness.
9 And thus ended the eleventh year of the judges, the Lamanites having been driven out of the land, and the people of Ammonihah were destroyed; yea, every living soul of the Ammonihahites was destroyed, and also their great city, which they said God could not destroy, because of its greatness.
10 But behold, in one day it was left desolate; and the carcasses were mangled by dogs and wild beasts of the wilderness.
11 Nevertheless, after many days their dead bodies were heaped up upon the face of the earth, and they were covered with a shallow covering. And now so great was the scent thereof that the people did not go in to possess the land of Ammonihah for many years. And it was called Desolation of Nehors; for they were of the profession of Nehor, who were slain; and their lands remained desolate.
It is easy to read this story in the same way the Old Testament authors and editors would have interpreted it. That is the Lord was angry with the people of Ammonihah and sent the Lamanites to execute his judgement upon them. But, notwithstanding what those editors repeatedly included in their work, I don’t think God does that sort of thing. So in my mind I have created a different scenario.
God moves through time like you and I move through space. We can go there and come back again. God knew that the Lamanites would come as surely as if they had already done it. So he sent his prophets to warn the people. If they had listened to the prophets they could have been prepared for the Lamanite onslaught.
But instead, the Ammonihahites drove out those who would listen (coincidentally saving them from the Lamanites), and stole their property. Thus making both their own lives and the property forfeit for their refusal to listen.
I like that version better because it is more compatible with God’s kindness, and doesn’t try to make him uncharacteristicly vindictive.
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When I sent this to Bruce for his OK, he responded, “I like your insight and perspective here. Someday I’d like to hear why you think the OT prophets took such a dim view of God’s love.”
It seems to me that if Bruce has that question, others may also. So I’ll tell you how I answered him. I wrote,
Most of the Old Testament was written after the Babylonian captivity when the Jewish religion was being modified to fit better with the Persian religion. When the editors of the books of Moses, and the authors of Joshua, Judges, King, Chronicles, etc., wrote, they and blamed everything bad in their history on either the king or on God. The prophets didn’t do that, even though modern scholars think they did. For example, when Isaiah says “The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God (Isaiah 52:10),” both Jewish and Christian scholars think of military action, but whenever it’s quoted in the Book of Mormon, Isaiah is talking about the temple (as in 3 Nephi 20).